Without question Farmers Markets are one of the very best places to trial a food product. Set up a pretty stall, then offer your customers a taste of your creation with a smileâ€“ watch the reaction, if they buy, great but more importantly wait and see if they come back for more next week. This is by far the best market research – itâ€™s free and better still you get lots of direct feedback and suggestions for ways to tweak it and maybe even some new flavours.
Young food entrepreneurs Sophie Morris and Graham Clarke started this way with their Kooky Dough, they mixed, chopped and wrapped till the early hours, took a deep breath and set up a stall at the Stillorgan Farmers Market. The reaction was instantly positive, now two years later their cookie dough is made in large quantities and sold not only right across Ireland but also in Tesco and Waitrose in the UK, Monoprix in France and at Spinneyâ€™s Supermarkets in the United Arab Emirates – another brilliantly successful fresh food story.
Sophie, an energetic and beautiful 28 year old is another of â€˜my babiesâ€™ she did a 12 Week Certificate Cookery Course here at Ballymaloe Cookery School in April 2008.
After sheâ€™d studied economics and social studies at Trinity, she met Graham Clarke her boyfriend and business partner, they famously turned down the investment offers on Dragonâ€™s Den and decided to go it alone.
They both work like crazy to keep on top of their business which had gone into orbit. Despite the work pace Sophie is determined to make nourishing a home cooked meal everyday which she believes is the key to staying on top of her hectic lifestyle and guess what, in her precious â€˜spare timeâ€™ she has written her first cookery book with people just like herself in mind busy people who love food and are determined to pull together a nutritious satisfying meal using basic ingredients which are in season and are readily available at the corner shop. Most of Sophieâ€™s meals can be cooked in half an hour or so they are super fresh and fun. How about some of these ideas to whet your appetite.
Sophie Kooks â€“ Quick and Easy Feelgood Food is published by Gill and Macmillan.
Sophie Morrisâ€™s Lentil Shepherdâ€™s Pie
My mum taught me this variation on traditional shepherdâ€™s pie years ago and it is absolutely delicious. Iâ€™ve cooked it for many people who were initially sceptical but later won over and in total agreement that you definitely donâ€™t miss the meat when eating it. Lentils are filling, nutritious and economical â€“ a must-have for your store cupboard.
This pie freezes really well so you can make a big batch and keep the leftovers.
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, grated
1 celery stick, finely chopped
400g (14oz) puy lentils, rinsed and drained (green or red lentils also work well)
1 x 400g (140z) can chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tablespoons tomato purÃ©e
600ml (1 pint) chicken or vegetable stock, simmering
1 teaspoon chilli powder or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a sprig of thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Mash
1.2kg (1 Â¾ lb) floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled and halved
50g (2oz) butter
50ml (2fl oz) milk
Preheat the oven to 200Â°C/400Â°F/gas 6. Heat a lug of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the lentils, tomatoes, tomato purÃ©e, stock, chilli powder and thyme. Stir well and season. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40â€“50 minutes, until the lentils are softened. You may need to add more stock (or boiling water) throughout cooking if all the liquid is absorbed before the lentils are cooked.
Meanwhile, make the mash. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with just enough cold water to cover them. Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Boil for 15â€“20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and easily broken with a fork. Drain them in a colander and leave for 2â€“3 minutes, until the steam has evaporated. (Always drain potatoes really well or youâ€™ll end up with watery mash.) Put the drained potatoes back into the dry saucepan and mash thoroughly with a potato masher. The harder you work the mash, the fluffier it will become! Once the lumps are gone, add the butter and mash again. Add the milk, stirring until combined. Season to taste.
Once the lentils are cooked, remove the sprig of thyme and pour the mixture into a deep ovenproof dish, leaving room for the mash topping. Arrange the mash evenly on top of the lentil mixture and bake the pie in the oven for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
Serve on warmed plates, with a green salad on the side.
Sophie Morrisâ€™s Easy Kofta Curry
â€˜Koftaâ€™ is the word for meatballs in the Middle East and South Asia. This beef kofta recipe with its warming curry sauce is a really simple one and so quick to prepare. Lamb kofta is also really nice, so you can swap the beef for minced lamb if you like.
700g (1 Â½ lb) lean minced beef
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons chilli powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
600ml (1 pint) passata (crushed, sieved tomatoes) or 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tablespoons medium curry powder (or mild, if you donâ€™t want much spice)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Place the minced beef in a bowl along with the ginger, garlic and chilli powder. Season and mix with your hands until well combined. Roll the mixture into rounds about the size of golf balls and set aside.
Heat a few lugs of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion for 4â€“5 minutes, until softened. Add the passata, curry powder and sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, season and leave the sauce to simmer over a low heat while you fry the koftas.
Heat a few lugs of olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry the koftas for 2â€“3 minutes, turning them until lightly browned all over. (You might need to do this in batches.) Carefully place the cooked koftas into the passata sauce and simmer very gently for 15â€“20 minutes, turning the koftas occasionally during cooking, until they have set and the sauce has reduced nicely.
Serve on warmed plates with basmati rice and a dollop of natural yogurt.
Sophie Morrisâ€™s Sirloin Steak Salad with Asian Greens
Asian flavours work really well in salads, making them very refreshing. The dressing used in this salad is so tasty â€“ itâ€™s one that works really well in lots of other salads, too.
For the Dressing
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
a handful of raw peanuts (optional)
4 x 150g (5oz) sirloin steaks, removed from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of asparagus (about 12 spears)
1 head of broccoli, broken into small florets
100g (3 Â½ oz) French beans, tails removed
4 handfuls of mixed baby salad leaves
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly torn
a handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
First prepare the dressing. Mix the chillies and garlic in a small bowl. Add the soy sauce, lime juice, olive oil and sugar. Mix well, taste, tweak the flavours to your liking and set aside.
Now roast the peanuts, if using. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the peanuts to the dry pan. Stir them for about 5 minutes, until theyâ€™re roasted. They will start to turn brown and the red skins will turn crisp and start to come away from the nuts. Empty the nuts into a clean tea towel, wrap it around them and rub the towel with your hands to remove the skins from the nuts. When most of the skins are gone, roughly chop the nuts and set aside.
Now cook the steaks. Heat a grill pan or frying pan over a high heat. Lay the steaks on a chopping board and trim off any excess fat. Sprinkle pepper on both sides of each steak, rub lightly with olive oil and, just before placing in the pan, sprinkle both sides with salt. Cook for 2â€“3 minutes each side for rare. Allow to rest on a plate for 5â€“10 minutes, then slice the steaks thinly.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Bend each asparagus stalk until it snaps. Each stalk will break in a different place, giving you different lengths of spears. Keep the spears and discard the woody ends. Add the asparagus spears, broccoli and French beans to a large pan of boiling salted water, ensuring they are completely submerged. Boil rapidly for 4â€“5 minutes, until the vegetables are just cooked and retain a little bite. Drain in a colander.
Arrange the salad leaves and herbs in a large serving dish. Just before serving, add the cooked vegetables, drizzle over the dressing and toss well. Scatter the steak slices on top and sprinkle with the peanuts. Serve immediately.
Sophie Morrisâ€™s Asian Mango Salad
This is such a colourful salad and it looks really gorgeous on the plate. Itâ€™s a great starter to pair with an Asian main course, as it leaves you wanting more of those yummy Asian flavours. The crunchy, sweet, tangy, spicy combination in this salad is simply amazing.
For the dressing
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
75g ((3oz) raw cashew nuts
2 ripe mangos, peeled and cut into thin strips
a handful of French beans, tailed and halved lengthways
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
a handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.
Heat a small pan over a medium heat and add the cashews. Toast them for a few minutes, tossing regularly, until golden. Remove the cashews from the pan, leave them to cool, and then roughly chop them.
Place the mango, French beans, pepper and onion in a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss well to coat evenly. Just before serving, sprinkle over the mint and cashews.
Sophie Morrisâ€™s Hazelnut Swirl Cookies
At Kooky Dough, we spend a lot of time experimenting with fun recipes using cookie dough. Itâ€™s such a versatile ingredient and you can use it to make some really extravagant baked treats and desserts.
This recipe is probably my favourite thing to do with cookie dough. The Nutella oozes out of the warm cookies and theyâ€™re just irresistible! The cookies are super-quick to make if you cheat and use ready-made cookie dough; but if you want to make them from scratch, this recipe shows you how.
Makes 10â€“12 big cookies
300g (10 Â½ oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
225g (10oz) butter, at room temperature
225g (10oz) caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a jar of Nutella
Sift the flour, salt and bread soda into a bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric beater, until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a little at a time, until itâ€™s fully combined and the mixture becomes a soft dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and shape it into a rough square. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/gas 4. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the fridge, discard the cling film and tip the dough onto a large sheet of lightly floured parchment paper. Lay a fresh sheet of cling film on top of the dough and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape of 1â€“2cm thickness. If you donâ€™t have a rolling pin, you can shape the dough using your hands over the cling film. Once the dough is shaped, discard the cling film.
Dip a knife into a mug of hot water, then into the jar of Nutella (this will help loosen the Nutella). Spread Nutella generously on top of the dough, leaving a 1 cm edge untouched all around.
Using the parchment underneath the dough as a guide, roll the dough into a tight log (ensuring the parchment paper doesnâ€™t catch). Cut the log into 1 cm slices (or thicker if you like).
Arrange the cookie dough slices on the lined baking sheets. Ensure they are well spaced, so that they have room to spread out in the oven.
Bake for 10â€“12 minutes, until lightly golden. The Nutella swirls will look amazing at this stage!
Leave the cookies to cool on the trays for a few minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack.
Enjoy with a cup of tea, or dig out the vanilla ice cream for a yummy dessert!
Some of you may be familiar with Bob Flowerdew a presenter on BBC 2 Gardenerâ€™s World and a regular panel member of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. A set of his excellent gardening books â€˜Bobâ€™s Basicsâ€™ published by Kyle Cathie have just arrived at the Garden Shop at Ballymaloe Cookery School. You can buy the entire attractive set of six hard back books â€“ practically a complete organic gardening reference library â€“ or just one. Also available in the shop are organic vegetables, picked fresh every day from the glass house, fresh free range organic eggs and delicious, unctuous Ballymaloe Cookery School yoghurt â€“ Donâ€™t forget Saturday Pizzaâ€™sâ€¦021 4646785.
The Field Kitchen run by Clancy Potts and Mick Hayes at the Blackbird Pub in Ballycotton, East Cork serve really delicious American style burgers â€“ we asked Clancy what makes the burger â€˜Americanâ€™â€¦â€œcaramelised grilled onions and loads of cheddar or blue cheese with a slather of mayonnaise, oh and really good quality meatâ€. They get their meat from Cliffordâ€™s Butcher in Castlemartyr and their pan-fried fresh fish straight from Trevor Macnamaraâ€™s boat in Ballycotton served with fresh hand cut chips. Open from 6pm Friday and Saturday and 5pm on Sunday. Contact Clancy Potts – :Â 086 230 8193.